It is common for an average person to take paracetamol when he/she has a fever, an inconvenience to the busy schedule. I have also seen many girls take painkillers such as Aspirin to relieve their pain during the menstrual cycle. How many times do we take Sinex or Disprin when we are having a cold or a headache? Medicines are saviors, but the same therapeutic agent when consumed carelessly is merely a drug, only having a label of ‘pharmaceutical’ in front of them. If the word ‘drug’ has such a bad connotation in our society, why does a ‘pharmaceutical drug’ hold an exception?
It is true that pharmaceutical drugs provide the benefit of easing the discomfort and diseases that one faces as a drawback of being a living organism. But is it absolutely necessary to ingest those medicines when nature itself gives our bodies the capacity to accomplish this task? If being a living being comes with the disadvantage of suffering, by extension, it also brings with it the immune privilege. We are only supposed to be taking medications when the system gives out, correctly and under the supervision of an authorized health service provider. But nowadays they are taken so frequently and mostly without supervision, that it seems like medicines are the rulers of the body. From where has such trust been built?
The building blocks
These medicines are eventually drugs, no matter how much benefit they provide us. Most importantly, the benefits are not long-term. They may provide relief to our bodies immediately, but, in the long run, decrease/degrade our body’s natural ability to fight diseases. The effect of a drug is simple; if we take them, we need to keep taking them. Our bodies become lazy to act up themselves for fighting the diseases, and instead let the drugs do the work. So unless necessary, why weaken our naturally healthy immune system? Is it worth spending our money for immediate relief?
For the majority of people, the answer is yes. What are the reasons behind such dependencies and blind trust in medicines? First of all, they make our lives easier by easing us of what we are suffering in a much quicker time than natural remedies would. Medicine is that invention that has turned the tables of life and death! And secondly, they are easily available in any drug store. Some need a doctor’s prescription, while some can be taken without the supposed fuss. Unethical doctors and health institutes are also to be blamed. According to PLOS medicine (2005), doctors in Nepal have started to become targets for the pharmaceutical industry’s promotional activities, and they are misusing their power to prescribe medicines at a stroke of their pen.
While some of the medicines may prove to be miraculous, just as the way people nowadays think, some medicines are so dangerous, they may actually do the opposite. Painkillers can permanently damage your liver; antibiotics can change the function of hormones and cause dehydration, and many tablets can be life-threatening if taken even a milligram more than prescribed. The scariest one so far is that some can even suppress what our bodies are going through.
There was a case where a person with severe lower abdominal pain avoided visiting a doctor for proper medical treatment. They instead relied on pain killers as they temporarily eased them from pain. Turns out they had been suffering from a tumor inside the stomach that the painkillers could obviously not help and which worsened the case due to a delay in treatment. Although, the reason behind why the person did not go to the doctor and instead suppressed the pain with pain killers is still not clear, it sets an example of how medicines are making us careless towards our bodies, how they hide and suppress the suffering of the body.
Despite this, the trend remains to not consult the doctors and take them carelessly. Especially the ones which are considered ‘common’, for example, D-cold and Ibuprofen. The pharmacies too are selling them without the consultation of authorities. According to Statista (March 9, 2021), total pharmaceutical sales in the United States were estimated to reach around 514 billion U.S. dollars. In Nepal, it is estimated that the demand for medicines will reach 1.65 tonnes annually by 2024-25. According to Apil R Bohara, the national drug survey conducted in 2012 revealed that there were 91,534 hard drug users in the country. It is also mentioned that many drug abusers are addicted to pharmaceutical drugs, the main reason being its easy availability and access. It is further mentioned that even pharmacists can sometimes be unaware that a certain medicine can be misused as a drug. The risks grow even enormous if we start listing.
The irony is that our society is so allergic to the word ‘drugs’ but when ‘pharmaceutical’ is presented before it, it is suddenly normal, rather supreme. The development of technology and invention and manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs are truly a blessing to the human world but are slowly beginning to dominate their lives. Have we lost faith in our bodies? Are we taking real care of our bodies by leaving it all to the medicines?
One of the measures that can be taken is the regulation on the production and distribution of the medicines. Increasing taxes for these can help reduce the sale and purchase by a significant amount. Only those medicines that are of absolute necessity must be supplied to the right people with proper consultation and purchased only from authorized people. And because there are growing numbers of health service providers and institutes, the government should check for their authenticity. But above all of these, the remote control of the body lies with none other than the owners of the body.
Recently, I came across an academic essay by David Leonhardt that was related to the burning issue of obesity in America. The writer’s main argument revolved around today’s lifestyle which has led citizens to shift the responsibility of their health to other bodies, like health facilitators or the government, due to which the ones who have the secondary responsibilities (primary responsibility being of the citizens) have to intervene. I cannot agree less!
In today’s world, it is impossible to imagine life without medicines, but we can definitely cut down their usage. All we need to do is invest some time and effort from our busy schedule in taking care of our bodies and getting our facts right about pharmaceutical drugs, instead of investing money in them. When we give ourselves time and effort, we can opt for alternatives like having nutritious food that boosts immunity. Citrus fruits like lime and oranges are a rich source of vitamin C, herbs like Tulsi (holy basil) helps in relieving fever and headache, and a household staple, turmeric has natural antibacterial properties. Exercising, relaxing, and doing recreational activities also make a difference. Proper rest and sleep are some of the natural and healthiest ways of fighting diseases. A little time and effort are all it takes to realize that our bodies are well-off without medicines.
Pharmaceutical drugs were originally developed to be taken only when absolutely necessary. Why not maintain the idea? Why gain a long-term disadvantage of weak immune for immediate gratification of relief? When the majority of our activities revolve around a better future ahead, why is it the opposite in this case?